This presidential election year seems more intense than any I’ve ever experienced in all my years of voting. And truthfully it’s the only election in which I’m still undecided this late into the political season. Part of me is so disgusted with all that’s happening in our country, that I feel a sense of dread and hopelessness. I wonder if my vote is even going to make a difference.
Though I lack excitement about any of the candidates currently in the race, I’ll still show up and cast my ballot on Election Day, if for no other reason than to exercise my freedom and right to do so. As a woman with a disability who is gay, I must make sure that I’m counted and valued, and that my voice is heard.
I remember the first time I ever voted for our nation’s leader back in 1976—40 years ago! Back then, I was so excited to register, and even though Watergate and the coverage of it on television created huge trust issues in politics (as the previously elected president had been impeached), I was still relatively innocent and believed, as many youth do, that we could overcome our difficulties and move forward to a greater America. Besides, I had dreams to pursue, and believed in my heart that my country would support me on my journey. In turn, I also felt honored to support my country.
Today however, I’m a lot more somber than ever. I have lived a full life, and have realized so many of my dreams. I’m grateful for being a citizen of a nation that has given me so much freedom to be who I am, and to accomplish more than I ever imagined I could. What I did not expect, though, was to be struggling as greatly as I am at this point.
Honestly, even if I could, I would never choose to rest on my laurels by simply kicking back and enjoying my “golden years.” I believe we should always strive to make a difference in the world. Now, more than ever, none of us can give up and close our eyes to what is unfolding right in front of us as these candidates crisscross America on the campaign trail.
I thought we were a nation divided during the last two presidential campaigns, but things have gotten even more divisive and scary in recent months. I am not telling anyone who to vote for, but I am encouraging us all to go beyond watching debates, and to stop being spun around by sound bites. Look deeper into what the candidates stand for, examine their leadership records, and know why you’re voting for that person.
Even as we slowly emerge from the economic downturn (from which many of us are still far from recovered), we’re weary of dealing with a broken political system that has forced so many of us to forget what the “American Dream” is about.
This nation’s greatness is what convinced me, as an 18-year-old kid with cerebral palsy, to believe that I could be an actress and writer, and to actually go forth and make it happen. While there will be those who ridicule me for embracing peace and love, there will always be a bit of the “flower child” in me.
So many of us have lost our ability to believe in ourselves that we have resorted to the age-old tendency to find someone else to blame when we feel we can’t achieve success. It’s as if we have gone back 50 or 60 years instead of continuing to move forward.
The revolution back in the day happened for the same reason we’re in our current quandary: The pursuit of happiness was not being supported on the bigger societal stage. And I will say that if we are unable to find happiness personally, we will never find it outside of ourselves.
Just know that whomever becomes our next President will not be able to create your personal happiness. That is only something you can do yourself, and it is something you must choose. As we take our individual power back, we will begin to experience the greatness America was built on. Our political system is what it is, and it needs to evolve, but positive change can only occur when it comes from within, first and foremost. Each morning we wake up, we must make a decision to sing in the rain or cry in the mud puddle.
by Geri Jewell